Sixteen-year-old Naomi Porter could tell you all about how she was found in an empty typewriter case in a Russian church, but "I hate orphan stories," she declares in Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. This psychological novel by author Gabrielle Zevin instead presents a first-person account of Naomi's unusual love story, which, she reveals, "involves chance, gravity [and] a dash of head trauma."
After falling down and hitting her head on the front steps of her high school, Naomi remembers nothing from the past four years of her life, not even her parents' divorce, her three-year-old stepsister, her father's upcoming nuptials to a tango dancer, her reasons for dating Ace, the tennis team captain, or her interest in co-editing the yearbook with her best friend, Will. Her first memory since the fall is of James, the edgy boy who found her and helped her to the hospital.
Naomi knows that she should be grateful to Will for his constant reminders about her former interests, actions and relationships, yet she soon finds him to be irritating and stifling. Overwhelmed by the pressure to remember anything about her previous life, she cannot stop thinking about dating James, who has an equally mysterious—and dangerous?—history, even if it means losing herself all over again.
Although Naomi must now reconcile her past, present and future, her accident has given her the opportunity to repair her estrangement with her mother, form her own identity and realize her real true love (this is a love story, after all). Never mind that the plot sounds like the latest soap opera; Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a riveting narrative with compelling, complex characters. Enthralled by Naomi's honest, fresh voice and her occasional wry, direct appeals to the reader, teens will find her tale unforgettable. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #5
What if you were given a blank slate to rewrite who you are? An accidental fall gives Naomi Porter just about that, wiping out the past four years of her life. Naomi remembers nothing after sixth grade and now has to piece together who she has become at age sixteen. Her devoted best friend, Will, helps fill in many of the blanks, including their prized roles as co-editors of the school yearbook. Naomi recognizes neither Will nor her boyfriend, popular tennis jock Ace, though Will instantly feels "comfortable and broken-in like favorite jeans," while she wonders what she and Ace ever had in common. More intriguing is mysterious new boy James. The book is a page-turning novel of self-discovery, drawing readers on as Naomi uncovers facts about her own life: birth control pills in a drawer, a half sister she's refused to meet. Zevin, author of Elsewhere (rev. 9/05), portrays the amnesia as neither blessing nor curse: it causes Naomi to relive some painful experiences (her parents' divorce, her mom's infidelity) but also opens new doors (a role in a school play, falling in love). Given the opportunity to view her life almost as an outside observer, she makes choices both praiseworthy and questionable, much like any other teenager. Honest and complex characterization grounds a thoughtful, suspenseful examination of memory and identity. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 August #2
Zevin constructs a unique take on the teenage question of "Who Am I?" New York City sophomore Naomi Porter must re-invent herself, re-construct her life and undergo a re-birth on her journey back from a head injury that leaves her with nine stitches and a memory loss spanning the four years since sixth grade. She struggles to adjust to her high school's caste system and to comprehend the roles of four males in her life. Ace, the tennis jock, is her forgotten boyfriend. Will, her yearbook co-editor, doubles as her best friend, and then there's the hauntingly intriguing James, her new crush. Her father, the fourth guy, loses her trust when Naomi discovers her parents are divorced and he plans to remarry. Rather than listing her many amnesia problems, Zevin deftly reveals Naomi's dilemma with concise phrasing. " â€˜Hello,' I greeted myself. â€˜I'm Naomi.' The girl in the mirror didn't seem convinced." This unusual love story has only a few lapses and will be well received by teens intrigued by the concept. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 August #1
Departing from the science fiction premise of Elsewhere, Zevin cooks up an entertaining love story out of what her narrator calls "chance, gravity and a dash of head trauma." As the novel opens, 16-year-old Naomi has fallen down a flight of stairs and lost all memory of the past four years. She doesn't remember her parents' divorce (not to mention her mother's remarriage, her half-sister and her father's recent engagement to a tango dancer). Her best friend, Will, with whom she co-edits the school yearbook, and Ace, her tennis-player boyfriend, seem like strangers. What Naomi does remember is James, the first person she saw after her accident. The image of the boy--who helped her to the hospital and stayed to make sure she was all right--lingers as she tries to sort out her past and her feelings. Well-defined characters and convincing narration camouflage the Lifetime- movie premise and the inevitability of every plot turn (no one will doubt which characters will become romantically involved and who will end up together). Naomi, adopted in infancy from a Russian orphanage, can summon up more than enough hidden emotional depths to counterweight the slicker aspects of the story; teens will identify with her vulnerability and her heightened feelings of alienation. And fans of psychological dramas won't want to put this book down. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)[Page 190]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 8-11-- When Naomi Porter takes a nasty fall, she loses all memory of the past four years. She's not sure if she's had sex with her boyfriend or what she saw in him, and she has no recollection that her adoptive parents are divorced, that she hasn't talked to her mother since her half sister was born, or that she's not wild about her dad's fiance. Luckily, her buddy and yearbook coeditor, Will, is willing to clue her in on her lost life, leaving out the detail that before she lost her memory, they had shared a kiss. The only thing that eases Naomi's discomfort is the knowledge that she's not entirely alone. James, the first one to arrive on the scene of her accident, is not only handsome and mysterious, but he's also interested in starting off with a blank slate. They eventually fall for one another and begin to date, but precisely as Naomi's memory returns, she realizes that James's troubles run deep. An assignment for a photography class helps Naomi reconnect with her mother, a photographer, and understand how her definition of a family can evolve. Zevin realistically examines the power of memory through Naomi and the subplot regarding her parents' joint career and failed marriage. The cast of sympathetic characters, especially James, who suffers from depression following the death of his brother, will resound with teens. Though not as wholly engrossing as Elsewhere (Farrar, 2005), this is a compelling read with intelligent dialogue that's also touching and funny.--Jennifer Barnes, Homewood Library, IL[Page 168]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.